News Feature | September 12, 2013

Facing Water Scarcity, Beer Brewers Promote Conservation

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


The cause of water conservation may have picked up some surprising new supporters: beer drinkers. That's because water scarcity is weighing heavily on the brewers of their favorite beverage. 

"Without water, there is no beer," Kim Marotta, the sustainability director for MillerCoors, a joint venture of brewing companies SABMiller and Molson Coors, told NBC News.

Water is needed to grow beer ingredients, such as barley and hops, and to brew the drink. But accessing enough water for production can be difficult due to water scarcity issues driven by population growth, water pollution and climate change, the outlet reported. 

That's why MillerCoors and other corporate ventures have endorsed United Nations efforts to conserve water. Those efforts are also endorsed by the maker of Stella Artois and Budweiser, Anheuser-Busch InBev, which brew the most beer worldwide by volume, and by Guiness-maker Diageo, NBC News said. 

Specifically, brewers are endorsing the UN CEO Water Mandate, which aims to  mobilize "a critical mass of business leaders to advance water sustainability solutions," according to UN literature. 

Brewers are also backing efforts by environmentalists. 

"Nearly two dozen craft brewers in the U.S. are signatories to an initiative spearheaded by the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, to toughen enforcement of the Clean Water Act," NBC News reported. 

MillerCoors says it is making progress at water conservation. 

"The nation’s second-largest brewer decreased water use by 6.1 percent to a record low 3.82 barrels in 2012. By comparison, some U.S. breweries use as much as 6.62 barrels of water to produce a single barrel of beer," MillerCoors announced this month. 

Attention to water scarcity is on the rise across all industries. 

"As the global economic turmoil is receding, many CEOs and global leaders are turning to other threats—and water is high on the list. For the second year in a row, water crises were named among the top four global risks at the WEF," Bloomberg reported

It's clear that water scarcity is no longer just an environmental issue, but also an economic one. 

"Increasingly, warnings about the global water crisis are coming not just from environmental groups and community advocates, but from traditional business organizations," according to a report by investment advisor Trillium. 

The economic ramifications of water scarcity are steep. 

"The extreme drought gripping much of the United States is likely to cost up to one percent of GDP, potentially making it the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history," Bloomberg said. 

Check out previous Water Online reporting on water scarcity here.

Image credit: "Greencolander," © 2007 beer cans, used under a Creative Commons Attribution license: